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Use Your Fear To Navigate Your Career

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Usually when we think about fear we think of it as a bad thing – for example, the fear that paralyzes us from going after the career we want, or going for the promotion, or starting your own business. But the truth is you will experience great anxiety and discomfort as you move toward some very wonderful (but still very scary) things in your career. This begs the question, Is all fear bad?

The answer is no.

So, how are you supposed to know if you should surrender to your fear or move through it?

The best way to do this is to try and figure out which type of fear it is. Is it fear + aversion or fear + anticipation? BIG difference.

One feels like submissive resignation and the other feels like steeling yourself for an exciting challenge.

Remember tobogganing as a kid? You trudged to the top of the biggest hill, positioned your toboggan in juuust the right spot, took a deep breath and pushed off, shrieking and giggling all the way down.

That moment before you push off? That’s fear + anticipation.

It’s the same fear and anticipation you have when you reach the tipping point on a roller coaster. Or the fear and anticipation you have when you learned how to ride a bike. It’s that wow, I can’t believe I’m doing this feeling.

Fear and aversion, on the other hand, feels like brussels sprouts. Or like going on a date with someone you hate. Or kissing Jabba the Hutt. Ick. No way.

Think of a career decision that you’re not entirely sure if you should approach or avoid – seeking funding for your business, a lateral move internally, or switching to an entirely different industry, for example.

Now, does it feel more like fear + anticipation or fear + aversion?

Steer clear of the things that feel like fear + aversion (that icky feeling…brussels sprouts). Those are things you don’t actually want. A lot of people chase things they don’t actually want because they think they’re things they should want – promotions, graduate degrees, high-profile projects, more money. Careful there.

Instead, move toward the things that feel like fear + anticipation (that wow, I can’t believe I’m going to do this feeling). Maybe you really want to write a book. Or take a sabbatical. Or leave the corporate world for a while to raise your young kids. If the idea of the promotion makes you feel good, go for it. Same for the degree, the project, the cash.

When you feel fear + anticipation you’re chasing the right kind of goals – ones that are more likely to actually make you happy. It will still feel scary, but it will be the right kind of scary.

 

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Published at Inc.